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General Early's Address to His Army.

Volume Lv - No. 141 Baltimore, Monday Morning, October 31, 1864

October 06, 2002

HEADQUARTERS VALLEY DISTRICT — The following extracts are from the Richmond papers of Wednesday last:

HEADQUARTERS VALLEY DISTRICT, Oct. 22 - Soldiers of the Army of the Valley: I had hoped to have congratulated you on the splendid victory won by you on the morning of the 19th at Belle Grove, on Cedar Creek, when you surprised and routed two corps of Sheridan's army and drove back several miles the remaining corps, capturing eighteen pieces of artillery, one thousand five hundred prisoners, a number of colors, a large quantity of small arms, and many wagons and ambulances, with the entire camps of the two routed corps, but I have the mortification of announcing to you that, by your subsequent misconduct, all the benefits of that victory were lost and a serious disaster incurred.

Had you remained steadfast to your duty and your colors, the victory would have been one of the most brilliant and decisive of the war; you would have gloriously retrieved the reverses at Winchester and Fisher's Hill, and entitled yourselves to the admiration and gratitude of your country.

But many of you, including some commissioned officers, yielded to a disgraceful propensity to plunder, deserted your colors to appropriate to yourselves the abandoned property of the enemy, and subsequently those who had previously remained at their posts, seeing their ranks thinned by the absence of the plunderers, when the enemy, late in the afternoon, with his shattered column, made but a feeble effort to retrieve the fortunes of the day, yielded to a needless panic and fled the field in confusion, thereby converting a splendid victory into a disaster.

Had any respectable number of you listened to the appeals made to you and made a stand, even at the last moment, the disaster would have been averted, and the subsequent fruits of victory secured; but under the insane dread of being flanked and a panic-stricken terror of the enemy's cavalry, you would listen to no appeal, threat or order, and allowed a small body of cavalry to penetrate to our train and carry off a number of pieces of artillery and wagons, which your disorder left unprotected.

You have thus obscured that glorious fame won in conjunction with the gallant men of the Army of Northern Virginia, who still remain proudly defiant in the trenches around Richmond and Petersburg. Before you can again claim them as comrades you will have to erase from your escutcheons the blemishes which now obscure them, and this you can do if you will but be true to your former reputation, your country and your homes.

You who have fought at Manassas, Richmond, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and from the Wilderness to the banks of the James River, and especially you who were with the immortal Jackson in all his triumphs, are capable of better things.

Arouse yourselves, then to a sense of your manhood and appreciation of the sacred cause in which you are engaged; yield to the mandate of discipline; resolve to stand by our colors in future at all hazards, and you can yet retrieve your reputation and strike effective blows for your country and its cause.

Let every man spurn from him the vile plunder gathered on the field of the 19th; and let no man, whatever his rank, whether combatant or noncombatant, dare exhibit his spoils of that day. They will be badges of his dishonor - the insignia of his disgrace.

The officer who pauses in the career of victory to place a guard over a sutler's wagon for his private use is as bad as the soldier who halts to secure for himself the abandoned clothing or money of a flying foe, and they both sell the honor of the army and the blood of their country for a paltry price.

He who follows his colors into the ranks of the enemy in pursuit of victory, disdaining the miserable passion for gathering booty, comes out of the battle with his honor untarnished, and though barefooted and ragged, is far more to be envied than he who is laden with rich spoils gathered in the trail of his victorious comrades.

There were some exception to the general misconduct on the afternoon of the 19th, but it would be difficult to specify them all. Let those who did their duty be satisfied with the consciousness of having done it, and mourn that their efforts were paralyzed by the misbehavior of others. Let them be consoled, to some extent, by the reflection that the enemy has nothing to boast of on his part. The artillery and weapons taken were not won by his valor. His camps were destroyed, his army terribly shattered and demoralized, his losses far heavier than ours, even in proportion to the relative strength of the armies, his plans materially impeded, and he was unable to pursue by reason of his crippled condition.

Soldiers of the Army of the Valley, I do not speak to you in anger; I wish to speak in kindness, though in sorrow. My purpose is to show you the cause of our late misfortune, and point out the way to avoid similar ones in future, and insure success to our arms.

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